Intended aim of the trail
Welcome to Tuam. It is my hope that this heritage trail will be used to help people learn more about our place and enjoy the historic sites of the town, as well as providing an enjoyable experience for those visiting Tuam. I have included many of the main heritage sites but there is so much more to learn about Tuam, its history, industrial heritage, environment and biodiversity.
I am grateful for the support of Tony Claffey on whose endless research this heritage trail is based. I would also like to thank my sister, Brigid Dermody, for her assistance in reviewing this text.
Disclaimer: This is an information guide and does not act in any way as an invitation to any person to enter onto any of the properties listed. While every care has been taken to ensure accuracy in its compilation, neither the writer nor owners of the properties listed can accept responsibility for errors, omissions, or inaccuracies. All information is received and published in good faith. All liabilities for loss, disappointment, negligence or any other damage caused by the reliance on information contained within is hereby excluded.
Tuam is situated thirty kilometres north-east of Galway city on the N83. It is the second largest town in County Galway and is a hub for indigenous industries. These businesses are provided with easy motorway access along the M18 and M17 from Limerick, which intersects the M6 north on the N17. Tuam is also within a two-and-a-half-hour drive of three international airports namely Knock, Shannon, and Dublin. It is in the heartland of Gaelic football and Saint Jarlath’s College, located in the town are traditionally kings of the Hogan Cup having won it an unprecedented twelve times.
History of Tuam
In the Bronze Age, approximately 1500 B.C. it is believed that there was a burial ground located near the River Nanny at the bridge on present-day Shop Street. It may have been a partial esker, a type of gravel mound. Two hills, one at Market Square and the other at Tullindaly border the site and from it the town gets its name, Tuaim Da Ghualann or ‘the tumulus of the two shoulders’.
The town can trace its history back to 526 A.D. when Saint Jarlath or Naomh Iarlath, a noble of the Conmaicne Cineil Dubain local kingdom, set out from his abbey at Cloonfush four kilometres west of Tuam on a mission to set up a new school. Legend has it that Saint Benan advised Jarlath to leave Cloonfush and told him that the place where his chariot wheel broke would be the site of his new monastery. His chariot wheel broke at Tuam and Jarlath became the first bishop of Conmaicne Cineil Dubain. While this might seem like a nice folk tale, it also fits well with what is generally known about the development of Christianity and the Church in Ireland at that time.
No evidence of Saint Jarlath survives lending credence to the view that the Vikings plundered Tuam and they may have prompted the building of the round tower at Killbannon. There are three sites associated with Jarlath; ‘Toberjarlath’, one kilometre south-east of Market Square, ‘Templejarlath’ and ‘Templenascreen’. Because of the reinternment of Jarlath’s relics to Templenascreen on 6 June, his feast day is celebrated on that date. In the thirteenth century, there were churches located at all these sites of pilgrimage.
At that time, the geography of the town placed Tuam in an important position. To the west was the Clare River and between it and Lough Corrib lay Mag Seola, the territory of the O’Flahertys. When Aed O’Connor overthrew the O’Flahertys in 1051, Tuam became a vital foothold and ultimately the seat of power as Aed gained the High-kingship of Connacht. Thus, the town came to be a place of great eminence, made further so by the creation of an arch-diocese for Connacht at Tuam.
 J.A. Claffey, A brief history of Tuam: a town of two cathedrals, (Galway, 2006), p. 3.
 Tony Claffey, ‘Pre-twelve century Tuam’, in Glimpses of Tuam through the centuries: proceedings of a seminar 23 September 2013, (2013), pp 7-8.
 Ibid, p. 9.
 Ibid, p. 11.
 Ibid, p. 11.
 Griffin Murray, ‘The establishment of Tuam as an archdiocesan capital in the twelfth century’, in Glimpses of Tuam through the centuries: proceedings of a seminar 23 September 2013, (2013), p. 21.